'It is imperative that we find new pathways': Pedestrians take risks along Huntsville's Highway 60

Highways are built for different types of automobiles — cars, motorcycles, trucks, among others — but, on Highway 60 in Huntsville, pedestrians also use it to get around, sometimes struggling through the snow.

Although not a safe practice, walking is necessary for residents like Linda Coleman, who works at a retirement home beside the highway.

“I start my daily walk on Muskoka Rd 3 by Hilltop Drive, and I walk down Highway 60 heading to the 3 Guys And a Stove. Then I go into Rogers Cove (retirement residence) through the Coveside Drive,” said Coleman.

Coleman added that in winter, she goes down to Canadian Tire and takes the footpath on Rogers Cove Drive, meaning a half an hour more to her daily commute.

“In the winter, you have to walk literally on Highway 60 to get anywhere in there. It could be a five-minute walk instead of a minute and a half in the car to get to work — wasting that gas; it's not worth it,” Coleman said.

Coleman is not alone in relying on her feet to get around. Other residents in the area have noticed an increase in the number of people getting around on foot due to the different services in the area and new housing developments built along the highway.

“I've lived at this location (behind Kawartha Dairy on Highway 60) for over 12 years, and I see people walking all the time, with their bags of groceries, as a transport truck drives within a couple of feet of them,” said resident Rick Birkhimer.

He added there are two new apartment buildings between Fairyview Drive and Muskoka Road 3, increasing density.

“The solution is at a minimal cost, and nothing has to be built or moved. Some form of the government has to say they will clear (the snow off) the existing asphalt sidewalk that already exists there,” said Birkhimer.

Is it that easy?

The short answer is no.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is in charge of maintaining the highway, and, according to them, the sidewalks in question are not for pedestrian access.

“While the ministry is aware that pedestrians use the paved boulevard adjacent to Highway 60, this area was constructed specifically for snow storage during the winter maintenance season and is not intended for pedestrian access,” a ministry spokesperson wrote in an email.

The ministry added staff is working with the Town of Huntsville and the District Municipality of Muskoka to determine specific needs, investigate options, and identify next steps.

Although a permanent solution is in process, the town recognizes the growing need and has resorted to temporary solutions to facilitate pedestrian mobility.

“The owners of the property and business Kelly's Home Furniture have granted the town temporary access across their property to allow pedestrians to travel safely from Fairyview Drive to Highway 60,” said Huntsville Coun. Bob Stone. “We are actively working with the district and MTO to create a permanent walkway directly beside that property to achieve the same goal.”

Stone also said the town contemplated plowing the sidewalk, but the ministry refused.

“We know the density has grown significantly in that area, and several more developments are in the works,” said Stone. “It is imperative that we find new pathways to help people walk and cycle safely from one end of town to the other. The Active Transportation Committee is currently working on a plan.”

Julian Orlando Chaves is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Huntsville Forester. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Huntsville Forester